The Red Tie by Khushwant Singh
In The Red Tie by Khushwant Singh we have the theme of selfishness, appearance, acceptance, trust, jealousy and honesty . Narrated in both the first person (first section) and third person (second and third section) the reader realises from the beginning of the story that Singh may be exploring the theme of selfishness. Chisti’s positioning of himself by the fire, blocking others from enjoying it, may suggest to some readers that Chisti is thinking only of himself. As though he is holding court in front of everyone. It may be the case that Chisti is also looking to be the centre of attention and if this is the case. He manages to do so. Similarly when Chisti is on the train there is a sense that he does not wish to share his space with someone else. He is happy, with regards to appearance, to be the only one in his compartment. How important appearance may be to Chisti is also noticeable by the way he is dressed. If anything Chisti is vain. Hiding his belly underneath his belt being an example. Perhaps Chisti is unable to accept the passage of time and the effects time and getting older has on one’s physical appearance.
The theme of jealousy is self-evident in the first section of the story. With those men in attendance at the dinner being envious of Chisti and his stories. What is also noticeable is that Chisti and his stories are appealing or attractive to the women at the dinner party. Without knowing the validity of the stories there are those at the dinner party who believe Chisti’s stories. Though the reader themselves may be a little more open to the fact that Chisti is lying. Particularly when one reads section two and three of the story. It becomes much clearer to the reader that appearance is of the utmost importance to Chisti. He does not like to look as though he is weak in any way. That he is not the person he says he is. An example of this is the two versions of the story regarding the red tie. Chisti does not wish for the truth to come out.
There is also some symbolism in the story which may be important. Singh may be using the introduction of the condoms to highlight to the reader, Chisti’s definition of manliness. Similarly the two trains may represent phallic symbolism and more importantly for the majority of the story Chisti’s train is stopped awaiting departure. The red tie itself can also be seen to represent not only manliness but honesty too. As mentioned there are two versions or stories with regard to how Chisti got the tie. With possibly neither been accurate. In all likelihood Chisti bought the tie himself and manufactured the stories. In order to impress others or at least in Chisti’s eyes he believed he was impressing others.
The second section of the story is the most interesting as the reader really gets to see how lonely Chisti is in his life. His preoccupation with looking at the woman on the other train being an example of this. Even Chisti is pleased that he has been robbed as though being robbed is a medallion he can wear around his neck. In general the reader cannot trust Chisti or his stories. He is prone to lying in order to boost his image among others, particularly among women. Who do not appear to have the filter to see through Chisti’s lying. It is as though the women in the story, apart from the woman who robs Chisti, are besotted by Chisti. They will believe anything he says because they themselves may feel as though they are living a limited, unattractive type of life. One in whereby there is no excitement. Which might place a spotlight on their own marriages. Something that each husband mentioned in the story may be fully aware of. Chisti is seen as being somebody who threatens the sanctity of marriage and Chisti himself may actually thrive on this. Though the reality is Chisti rather than being a predator is the hunted. He is afraid of women as is noticeable by his reaction. going to the toilet, when the woman from the train boards his train.